Awesome telescope sheds new light on cosmos
Messier 17, or Omega Nebula, is shown in dazzling color in the first images transmitted from the new VLT Survey Telescope.
June 8th, 2011
09:14 AM ET

Awesome telescope sheds new light on cosmos

From a mountaintop in northern Chile, the largest visible-light telescope in the world has captured stunning images of the cosmos in never-before-seen detail.

The Paranal Observatory released initial images Wednesday from the powerful VLT Survey Telescope.

The images constitute a celestial breakthrough for the 15-nation European Southern Observatory, which runs the Paranal Observatory and has worked with astronomers to build telescopes that survey the sky in large segments.

“The VST project has overcome many difficulties but it is now repaying, with its excellent image quality, the expectations of the astronomical community and the efforts of the many people at INAF (Italian National Institute for Astrophysics) involved in its construction," Tommaso Maccacaro, head of the INAF, said in an ESO press release. "I am very pleased to see the VST in operation,” he said.

The VST image of the star-forming cluster Messier 17, so awesome it has at least three other descriptive names - Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula and Horseshoe Nebula - shows swaddling bands of light in astonishing clarity.

The ESO images are the fruits of the new VLT Survey Telescope and the "monster camera," OmegaCAM, which produces 268-megapixel images.

The new telescope sits among four other high-powered instruments on the summit of Cerro Paranal in Chile's Atacama Desert, an optimum location far enough from city lights to view celestial wonders.

Also released by the ESO was an image of the stellar cluster Omega Centauri, showing about 300,000 stars, according to the release.

The VST will make three public surveys over the next five years, the release said.

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Filed under: Science • Solar System • Space
soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. €Engleberthumperdink¥£

    My question is, who is Chili to have a larger and better telescope than us? Oh yea, I almost forgot. We give billions in aid. Chili gives $0.00.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  2. cindy


    June 8, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jack

    Brendon, you're wrong. Matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed (i.e., by man). All quantum physics says is that a particle can appear at one location because it apparently disappeared, as far as we can tell, in another. One of my family members has his PhD in high energy physics from Harvard, has taught at Stanford, and researched at Fermi labs and at the new facility in Switzerland. So you have been TRUMPED BOY!!!!!

    June 8, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • nuclear science

      Jack, I have a Ph.D. and we make positron-emitting nuclides in our cyclotron on a daily basis. When those positrons (positively charged electrons) collide with nearby electrons at just the right energy, they annihilate one another to create two co-incident photons of light at 511 keV energy intensity. That is how we have PET scans. Thus, when matter and anti-matter collide, their mass is destroyed and converted into energy. I am a faculty at one of the top universities too.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Let me gets this straight, having a smart relative makes you smart?

      June 8, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You cannot be serious. Trumped by what? Dude, three quarters of the people on this forum would tell you that they have PhDs from Harvard. That trumps nothing. Most of those "Harvard PhDs" never made it through high school. "My cousin's neighbor's dog groomer's friend had a daughter whose nanny had an uncle whose accountant's sister's piano teacher was really smart because she went to Harvard says you're wrong. You, sir, are trumped!" Ridiculous. Asanine.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Marley

      Your causality argument for this thingy "God" FAILS miserably. Google it for yourself if you still don't understand.

      Our current scientific knowledge says all that is needed for the existence of what we see today is GRAVITY.

      Matter (particles) can and does come into existence by itself. When matter comes into existence, there will be a corresponding anti-matter (anti-particle). The matter and anti-matter destroy each other the instant they come into existence.

      One such phenomena that has been discovered to show this exactly is QUANTUM FLUCTUATIONS. Quantum fluctuations occur all around us in the empty space.

      But sometimes, GRAVITY wins! And gravity is able to pull the matter and anti-matter apart so that they cannot destroy each other. If a matter is dense enough, gravity will pull it down like a black-hole, thus causing a BIG BANG!

      If you want to still claim there is some conscious being behind these seamlessly random processes, then please explain what it is. If you can, you will be WINNING!

      June 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teddy3indc


      How can something that exist, will itself into existence if it never existed to will itself in the first place? ...... There must be a start and a cause. Simple.

      Give one example of something that just pops up. I am not asking for something that you couldn't see and then saw, but something that cannot be, but then is.

      Additionally, If gravitiy were created, as it was, that general principle of your arguement fails. If gravitiy was created then it to has a function that it acts out. Just as everything else does.

      You exist, therefore you had to come into existence, and since you didn't do it yourself, someone must have done it. And yes, it may seem like chance that everything happened this way on earth and in the universe, but the odds of each thing happening is so God-awfully small that without intelligent design there is nearly no way it could've happened.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • fimeilleur


      Your argument is old, tired and repeatedly debunked. It is an argument from ignorance. Just because YOU cannot think of a way that it could happen, does NOT imply nor suport the idea that Goddunnit. Let the adults talk while you listen and learn.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. popeye1128

    300, 000 stars in one photo. Think of all the planets there are and some of those have to be capable of supporting life. I'll always think we are not alone in this vast universe but the distances are just too great. Beautiful stuff.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. William

    Religion – the opiate of the masses. Such a patetic phenomenon.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Have you ever tried Opium?
      Not as "patetic" as you might think.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC Williams

      It's not only religion, but ideology in general that is the opiate of the masses.

      June 8, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. William

    Religion – the opiate of the masses. Such a pathetic phenomenon and reason for existence.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. brian

    I'm looking at some great photos and then everybody's arguing about God. I'm not sure if there is a God or Heaven. But strangely, the more I learn about the universe, the more that idea gets enforced.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. PoopGravy

    When did I say anything about my God? I didn't, so if you would refer to Jason's post just below yours, I will refrain from repeating anything.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. Warning Will Robinson

    most of those pics they send back are all starting to look the same... looks like space to me.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. I wonder

    How long religion would last when a visitor from another planet finally finds our planet?

    June 8, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      The religious inclined will just start another religion worshiping a dogma that includes aliens – maybe a Heaven's Gate 2 or Scientology.

      June 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. USArmyOverLord

    Cool Picture ;).

    June 8, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Religious fervor

    The creation of a method for manipulating people who are not educated enough to accept science.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • otto

      Im a God fearing man, who is very conscious about this place we dwell. I am no scientist or scholar, but appreciate the brilliant minds who seem to discover and explain the God you hate or fear to know more and more each day. I agree with you, religion is a little odd, and sadly accepted blindly by a large majority. This makes God no less real my friend, just misunderstood, by both "believers" and "atheists" alike. The flaw is not in God, its in our prideful finite minds. I have accepted that I am but a dust particle in comparison to the incredible vastness of space and its collections. If you want logic explain to me how our FINITE minds can have the INFINITE God figured out? Atheists want to see God? Can you accept that our brains ( recognizing the amazing leaps and bounds in philosophy and technology) haven't developed the means to see something large enough to willfully create a universe hundreds of billions of lightyears in size? Beyond that, our eyes receive and interpret signals on a very limited pathway. There are exponential things all around us we can't "see"...BOTH science and my bible tell me so.. i see the arrows pointing in the same direction

      June 8, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angeleyes

      Well delivered sir! Some people just will NOT get it because they do NOT want to. People attempt to learn but with emotions in place. When reading anything religious, scientific, spiritual whatever the case may MUST have an open mind and the ability to make connections without personal attachment. For people to believe that the meaning of life is to be born, struggle and work for years after years to then just die is not only ignorant (ignorant as in undeveloped thinking) but just straight up sad to me (sincerely speaking...not bashing). Some people believe in God because of tradition, others because of their experiences, others because of science, etc and others because they simply want something good and positive to believe in before their life on earth expires. Religion has done a wonderful job at destroying the image and thoughts of those who simply believe in a higher being and understand the complexities of this universe.

      June 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • fimeilleur

      So you believe God created man in his image? God must be a moron then... making us breath, eat and drink from the same hole... yet he gave dolphins and whales two different pipes, one for breathing, one for eating... makes more sense... or how he "desinged" the human eye... with a huge nerve at the back (providing a blind spot), criss-crossing so the right eye image is sent to the left side of the brain and the left is sent to the right, but he gave a much better system to the Octopus... or how the reproductive organs are on the outside of the male anatomy, Etc. etc. etc.

      Or maybe you believe that this planet was designed "to support life" and more importantly, HUMAN life, but we can't survive for long periods of time in more than 80% of the surface. Absolutely ludicris. Your god deserves a b1tch slap.

      June 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • fimeilleur

      This was directed at Otto

      June 9, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. lunchbreaker

    I find it amusing that thiests try to say athiesm is a religion also, as if that is a negative quality in a person. Either athiesm is not a religion and one of us is wrong or athiesm is a religion and we are both stupid. Take your pick.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • IbeMe

      Atheism is a religious belief; that is, there is no god. If more specificity is wanted, atheism is a belief that no external agent that created (willed, caused, etc.) the universe to come into being; furthermore, no external agent is required for the the universe to exist.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bob

    Atheism isn't a religion. There's no worshiping of some unseen deity, no special clothes, no ceremonies. It's a belief that gods don't really exist.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Atheism is a religion. A religion is defined as a set of beliefs that someone has faith in. Therefore, using that definition, Atheists believe in the evolution of the universe, and have faith that they are correct.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      Ryan, atheism is the absence of belief in a deity. I'll resort to the dictionary here: theism is "belief in the existence of a god or gods" and atheism is "disbelief in the existence of a god or gods." As an atheist, I don't b elieve in god, but I don't "have faith" that I'm right about anything that hasn't already been empirically proven.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      Denizen Kate – You prove my point. I never said Atheists believed in any diety. But they are still religious. They believe – therefore they are religious (much like the other famous quote). If you believe, you have faith in your beliefs.

      June 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Atheists are not religious. Atheism is a statement of non-belief, not an alternate belief! Stop trying so hard, you aren't that bright!

      June 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • IceT

      and again, time to educate someone in the most basic of information .... A-theism is a NON theism, Atheists DO NOT worship evolution or Darwin for that matter. Please try to understand this and move on with something more useful.

      June 8, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glen

      Atheism is "without theism" by definition. It is not a religion by any means. As an atheist and former Christian myself, I have no "beliefs" in any science. I recognize scientific facts and base conclusions as best I can on those facts. That's why I conclude, for example, that the earth is much more than 10,000 years old and therefore the book of Genesis is not an accurate literal depiction of the creation of the earth. No "belief" involved. If new evidence comes along showing me my conclusion was wrong, I'll update my conclusion.

      I think perhaps that religious people have trouble framing a world picture that does not include speculative beliefs and so they project that everyone else has this same problem.

      June 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      It's not even that. It's a lack of belief in god or gods. It is not necessarily a postion that they do not exist. The difference seems trivial but has huge logical implications.

      June 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teddy3indc

      Therefore making it a belief and likewise a belief system of its own ................. Religion (ideology)(belief system)(practice)

      June 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      I have to disagree with you, it's not a belief there are no gods it is more of a lack of belief in any gods. I explain it this way because the religious figure atheism to be a religion because of the "belief" in no gods, when you remove the belief and replace it with a lack thereof their argument falls apart.

      June 8, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • fimeilleur

      More accurately, a lack of belief in the existance of gods...

      June 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mary

    Alas, let us take a long moment to actually understand what we are seeing! We are actually a part of it . How wonderful how glorious. Thank You Thank You Thank You, Creator of the universe.

    June 8, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • phorse

      Who created the "creator of the universe?"

      June 8, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Teddy3indc


      Don't be callous.

      A root of everything can have no beginning on it's own, nor can the root ever have it's end.

      Our temporal minds think, but seldom try to understand.

      Peace to you, Mary

      June 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • phorse


      If my question to Mary is unanswerable, then why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the universe can never be determined. Then people like you and Mary can stop telling us definitively that "god" created the universe.

      June 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
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